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      Clinical Management of Relapsed/Refractory Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis in Adult Patients: A Review of Current Strategies and Emerging Therapies

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          Haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a severe disorder with high mortality. The aim of this review is to update clinical management of relapsed/refractory HLH in adults, with a focus on current and new therapies.


          We searched relevant articles in Embase and PUBMED with the MESH term “hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; refractory; relapsing; adult.”


          One hundred eight papers were found; of these, 22 were retained for this review. The treatment of HLH in adult is based on the HLH-94 regimen. The response rate is lower than in pediatric patients, and 20–30% are refractory to this therapy. DEP regimen and allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) are associated with complete response and partial response in 27% and 49.2%, respectively. However, many patients fail to achieve a stable condition before HSCT, and mortality is higher in them. New drugs have been developed, such as emapalumab, ruxolitinib, and alemtuzumab, and they may be used as bridges to the curative HSCT. They are relatively well tolerated and have few or mild side effects. With these agents, the rate of partial response ranges from 14.2% to 100%, while the rate of complete response is highly variable according to study and medication used. The number of patients who achieved HSCT ranged from 44.8% to 77%, with a survival rate of 55.9% to 100%. However, the populations in these studies are mainly composed of mixed-age patients (pediatric and adult patients), and studies including only adult patients are scarce.


          Relapsed or refractory HLH in adult patients is associated with poor outcome, and consolidation with HSCT may be required in some cases. Mortality related to HSCT is mainly due to active HLH disease before HSCT and post HSCT complications. New drugs, such as empalumab, ruxolitinib, and alemtuzumab are interesting since these agents may be used as bridges to HSCT with increases in the numbers of patients proceeding to HSCT and survival rate.

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          Most cited references 68

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          Comprehensive molecular characterization of clinical responses to PD-1 inhibition in metastatic gastric cancer

          Clinical studies support the efficacy of programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) targeted therapy in a subset of patients with metastatic gastric cancer (mGC). With the goal of identifying determinants of response, we performed molecular characterization of tissues and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) from 61 patients with mGC who were treated with pembrolizumab as salvage treatment in a prospective phase 2 clinical trial. In patients with microsatellite instability-high and Epstein-Barr virus-positive tumors, which are mutually exclusive, dramatic responses to pembrolizumab were observed (overall response rate (ORR) 85.7% in microsatellite instability-high mGC and ORR 100% in Epstein-Barr virus-positive mGC). For the 55 patients for whom programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) combined positive score positivity was available (combined positive score cut-off value ≥1%), ORR was significantly higher in PD-L1(+) gastric cancer when compared to PD-L1(-) tumors (50.0% versus 0.0%, P value <0.001). Changes in ctDNA levels at six weeks post-treatment predicted response and progression-free survival, and decreased ctDNA was associated with improved outcomes. Our findings provide insight into the molecular features associated with response to pembrolizumab in patients with mGC and provide biomarkers potentially relevant for the selection of patients who may derive greater benefit from PD-1 inhibition.
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            Targeting the indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase pathway in cancer

            Tumor cells escape the immune surveillance system of the host through a process called immune tolerance. Immunotherapy targets molecules that serve as checks and balances in the regulation of immune response. Indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) is an intracellular enzyme, which through the process of tryptophan depletion exerts an immunosuppressive effect, facilitating immune escape of tumors. This review summarizes our current knowledge on IDO expression in malignancies, the IDO inhibitors that are currently available and those under clinical development.
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              Hypomorphic mutations in PRF1, MUNC13-4, and STXBP2 are associated with adult-onset familial HLH.

              Familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a rare primary immunodeficiency disorder characterized by defects in cell-mediated cytotoxicity that results in fever, hepatosplenomegaly, and cytopenias. Familial HLH is well recognized in children but rarely diagnosed in adults. We conducted a retrospective review of genetic and immunologic test results in patients who developed HLH in adulthood. Included in our study were 1531 patients with a clinical diagnosis of HLH; 175 patients were 18 years or older. Missense and splice-site sequence variants in PRF1, MUNC13-4, and STXBP2 were found in 25 (14%) of the adult patients. The A91V-PRF1 genotype was found in 12 of these patients (48%). The preponderance of hypomorphic mutations in familial HLH-causing genes correlates with the later-onset clinical symptoms and the more indolent course in adult patients. We conclude that late-onset familial HLH occurs more commonly than was suspected previously.

                Author and article information

                Ther Clin Risk Manag
                Ther Clin Risk Manag
                Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management
                14 April 2021
                : 17
                : 293-304
                [1 ]Departement of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Cliniques Universitaires Saint Luc , Bruxelles, Belgique
                [2 ]Departement of Hematology, Cliniques Universitaires Saint Luc , Bruxelles, Belgique
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Halil Yildiz Departement of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Cliniques Universitaires Saint Luc , 10 Avenue Hippocrate, Bruxelles, 1200, Belgique Email halil.yildiz@uclouvain.be
                © 2021 Yildiz et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

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                Figures: 0, Tables: 7, References: 68, Pages: 12


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